Pilot's tip of the week

Landing Practice

Featuring

Subscriber question:

"Are there simple exercises I can do to improve my landings? My primary goal is to land safely, but as someone who doesn't fly much, I'd like to treat each landing as practice and an opportunity to improve in this area."
- Sean R.

Wally:

“A great question. The regulations tell us that we only need three landings within 90 days to be legal to carry passengers. So, if you have only had one landing per month or perhaps three landings 85 days ago, you are legal. But, how proficient are you? Not very is my answer. A pilot I know who flies regularly starts almost every flight with five or six trips around the pattern before leaving the airport. Are his landings good? You bet.

But, it’s not enough to just do multiple landings; you need to challenge yourself if you want to get better. So for starters, I suggest you pick a spot on the runway to be your touchdown spot. You can make it the one-thousand-foot block if your runway is so marked, or simply pick three or four centerline stripes from the beginning. See how close to landing exactly on that spot you can get. Now, no forcing the aircraft on the runway just to hit the spot, you must touch down on the main wheels only and very low on energy. Ideally, the stall horn will beep just prior to touchdown. Remember, the airplane will land itself while you are trying to keep it off. I’m willing to bet you’ll float well past your spot the first few times you try this. This will teach you how far the airplane floats during the flare and will sharpen your airspeed control on final.

OK now let’s work on the centerline. Pull your airplane out to a taxi line and put the nose wheel on the centerline. Then get in the left seat and note where the centerline is in relation to your cowling. Take a picture so you’ll remember this reference. Now you know how it will look when you are landing on the centerline. I’ll bet you’ve been landing a bit left of the centerline.

Now practice keeping that centerline right where it belongs during takeoff and landing. After you get that figured out, then practice landing just a little right of the centerline, then again back on the centerline.

Practicing these exercises gives you the ability to land any place on the runway that you wish. Short, long, right or left. You’ll be glad you can do this next time you’re landing on a very narrow or short runway.

You should start your practice in calm to light winds, typically in the early morning or late afternoon. You can work in stronger winds as you improve. Naturally, if you are uncomfortable with any of these exercises, get your friendly CFI to help you.

A little time and effort spent working on landing proficiency will pay big dividends in safety and comfort.”

When landing, how often do you pick a specific touchdown spot on the runway for practice?

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